Just three weeks into Trinity term and the BBC has once again decided to make it virtually impossible for me to meet my Friday morning essay deadline, by scheduling the new season of Peaky Blinders at a critical stage in the essay-crisis panic. Procrastination is a cruel mistress and, of course, every week I’m easily persuaded that my time would be better spent lusting after Cillian Murphy’s majestic cheek bones than doing anything remotely useful.
The new season has brought some big changes, we’re two years on, Tommy is married, Arthur has taken up with a nun, and most intriguingly, the Blinders are now working for the crown. At the end of last season, Tommy ended up not, dead in a ready-dug grave as we feared, but instead expecting contact from Winston Churchill himself.
It would appear that this season the Blinders are helping the White Russians, as writers Steven Knight and David Leland attempt to involve the show in current affairs rather than revelling in the grimy, smoky haze of the Birmingham underworld. The show must be commended for its staggering CGI recreation of the visceral, blood-stained streets of 1920s Small Heath, and although some of this season’s drama has taken place at home, in the Shelby empire, I can’t help but feel the ambition of the show has overreached itself in taking on the subject of Anglo-Russian international relations. Being a historical drama doesn’t necessarily mean it has to engage with contemporary politics at every opportunity, and while the Irish connection made sense, this latest link feels like a bit of a reach.
However, this season has brought some interesting twists, not least, the development of Michael, Polly’s long-lost son and an intriguing new member of the Shelby Company. The first episode saw Michael thoroughly entertaining one of Tommy’s wedding guests in a classic Peaky Blinders cut of a sex scene interrupted by shots of a brutally violent murder. I can’t actually think of a Peaky sex scene that doesn’t fit this mould, but it was a first for Michael and a chance for viewers to see him in a more adult light. He’s chillingly self-controlled, telling us in the first episode, ‘I set things up but I don’t partake’. He has his uncle Tommy’s ‘violence brimming just beneath the surface’ smile and calculating mind, and I predict this season will see him claim a greater stake in the company.
While I’ve been enjoying Michael’s character development, I’ve been slightly disappointed with the inconsistency of writing with regard to other Shelby family members. Two years may be a long time in TV world but in real life, it’s not a time-span that generally changes people beyond recognition. Grace the badass spy has become a simpering housewife, Arthur a devout Christian, John the ‘mad-dog’ figure that we came to expect of his eldest brother, and Tommy, an uncharacteristically stressed Lord of the manor. I really hope that the latter half of the season explains some of the personality disorders currently occurring among the cast, and returns to the high standard of writing I’ve come to expect of Peaky Blinders, the only show to miraculously succeed in making Birmingham sexy.